Bethlehem school district maintains salary negotiation procedures

He said he believed there should be "true disclosure of contracts when they are completed."

Lytle and Loomis responded that much of the school's budget were items "out of the hands" of administrators.

Loomis said the district is in a constant struggle to remain competitive with the 12 members of the Suburban Council in order to attract and retain the best possible teachers for the district.

"Even though we are one of the highest academic performers our teachers are in sixth place," Loomis said, referring to the fact that a Bethlehem teacher's base pay is the sixth highest out of the 12-district council.

Giordano said that's an issue that needs to be addressed region-wide.

"The problem is that the contracts are done every three or four years and by the time the contracts are up you're back at the bottom of the list. So every time one of the 12 schools raises their teachers pay everyone has to get a raise?" Giordano asked. "The school budget will never be conservative, it will only grow."

Incoming superintendent Michael Tebbano agreed with Loomis, and added that he plans to continue the Citizens Budget Group process under his tenure.

The school offers teachers with a master's degree a starting salary of $42,000, plus benefits, according to school records. The school also pays $75 a day for substitute teachers, but as Loomis put it, "It's hard get good substitutes when they can go to the next town and get $100 or more."

Lytle said healthcare is another rising cost for the district, with the biggest bulk of the budget lying in staff expenses.

"It's obviously a sensitive issue," said Lytle. "I can appreciate the fact that people are looking at a tough economic environment."

Giordano said he only wants to open up the dialogue on the school's biggest expenditure.

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